I need a colorful synonym for "dumbfounded" or "baffled". It's on the tip of my tongue. It's a multi-syllable word.

Context: "I checked with xxx and yyy (experts). They were both as dumbfounded as I was by So-and-So's letter, saying they've never heard of a request for m being treated as n.

(An administrator had confused two completely different rights and their legal underpinnings.)

Hornswaggled is the closest so far. (The dictionary I consulted said hornswoggled, and it gave a very different definition.) But I think there's something that's just one notch more mainstream than that, only that I can't remember it.

I'm seeing some suggestions that don't mean the same thing as dumbfounded/baffled. Here's the definition for dumbfounded: "to make speechless with amazement; astonish."

Here's a made-up similar context:

I double-checked with my botany professor. She was as ____________ as I was by your lecture notes, saying she's never seen a maple confused with an oak before.

EDIT: Guys, "hornswaggled/hornswoggled" is colorful. Astonished (for example) is not colorful.

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    There's always "hornswaggled". – Hot Licks Nov 11 '15 at 2:29
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    Please include context where the "colorful" synonym would be used. Otherwise, your question might be closed. – user140086 Nov 11 '15 at 2:35
  • I'll give you my million-dollar opinion if you can just give me a feel for audience...are you writing it up for work? My hunch is yes, so I'll plead that 'hornswaggled' gets the axe. Although it's impossible to say it w/out smiling. :) *You're wise to be picky on this one, since many of the word choices are almost cartoonish...too boisterous if we're describing an adult who's contemplating something..if all the action is silently happening inside her head. – DigiGirl Media Nov 11 '15 at 3:28
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    @Jim - I did a little research on "hornswoggled" (apparently the correct spelling) after I placed the above comment. It did originally mean "tricked" or "deceived", as you say. However, many of my generation know it because "I'll be hornswoggled" was a common minced oath on TV westerns of the late 50s (thanks to the censorship of the era). In particular I'm thinking that the Andy Devine character in The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok used it regularly. (If not him then a similar character in a similar show.) And the movie Calamity Jane uses the word in this sense in 1953. – Hot Licks Nov 11 '15 at 13:17
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    dumbfounded seems colourful enough! – curiousdannii Nov 18 '15 at 4:08

12 Answers 12


Astonished, astounded, flabbergasted, flummoxed, gobsmacked, speechless, stupefied.

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  • I guess I'll accept gobsmacked. It feels like the same thing to me as dumbfounded, and it's more colorful. (Unfortunately, it was too strong and too colorful for me to use in my letter.) And Tahlia was the first to suggest it. – aparente001 Nov 20 '15 at 17:57
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    @aparente001 which begs the question why did you set up a bounty in the first place? Tahlia's list was posted, precisely, four minutes after you submitted your question. – Mari-Lou A Nov 20 '15 at 19:54
  • @Mari-LouA - I have been disappointed in the answers that were posted after I set up the bounty. Do you really see a post-bounty question that is better? I couldn't award the bounty to dumbfounded. – aparente001 Nov 21 '15 at 3:24
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    You could have always just used a thesaurus instead of asking this site. If you were unhappy with the answers, you did not have to award anyone at all. – Tahlia Louise Nov 21 '15 at 3:27
  • I always find "Speechless" to be amusing when someone says it of themselves. But then, I am perfect. – user126158 Jul 18 '16 at 21:41

Flabbergasted is the best example of a multi-syllable synonym that comes to mind.

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  • This also fits, and is colorful, but was also just a bit too strong for me to use. I will try to split the bounty with gobsmacked. – aparente001 Nov 20 '15 at 17:59
  • Apparently it's impossible to split the bounty. Sigh. I'm going to give the bounty to gobsmacked because it's less in the area of shocked and more like dumbfounded. It's a very subtle difference, thought. – aparente001 Nov 20 '15 at 18:10
  • 'Gobsmacked' sounds absolutely disgusting to me. I must be misunderstanding the true meaning of the word, or no one would use it in polite company. – user126158 Jul 18 '16 at 21:43



to discombobulate: to confuse; befuddle AHD


: Dial. obfuscated; confused; bewildered M-W


confusticate: Sl. to confuse or perplex; bewilder Random House


: totally perplexed and mixed up WordNet by Farlex


: being mixed up : confused M-W

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  • "discombobulated" does seem to be a popular word on ELU, I think it's the only place I've ever heard it. I do love "confusticated" though :) – AndyT Nov 11 '15 at 10:31
  • Discombobulated was going to be my answer. It not only fits the definition for the OP's request, its just a funny word to say outloud. – O.M.Y. Nov 16 '15 at 0:51


I double-checked with my botany professor. She was as bamboozled as I was by your lecture notes, saying she's never seen a maple confused with an oak before.

    1. to perplex; mystify; confound.
      Synonyms: befog, bewilder, puzzle, baffle, dumbfound.

Dictionary.com explains further

Bamboozle is one of those words that has been confounding etymologists for centuries. [...] By 1712, it had acquired the sense “to perplex; mystify.” It is not known for certain, but this sense might have emerged under the influence of the Scottish word bumbaze (or bombaze), meaning “to confuse,” similar in both sound and meaning. Given the befuddling qualities of alcohol, it's not too surprising to find that, in the 1800's, bamboozle showed up on college campuses as a slang term for “drunk.”

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Here is a variety of colorful words I found using Thesaurus.com:

thunderstruck [thuhn-der-struhk]


  1. overcome with consternation; confounded; astounded:

    He was thunderstruck by the news of his promotion

  2. Archaic. struck by a thunderbolt.


buffaloed, buffaloing

verb (used with object) Informal

  1. to puzzle or baffle; confuse; mystify:

    He was buffaloed by the problem.

  2. to impress or intimidate by a display of power, importance, etc.

    The older boys buffaloed him.



verb (used with object)

  1. to bewilder or confuse (someone).


flabbergast [flab-er-gast]

verb (used with object)

  1. to overcome with surprise and bewilderment; astound


disconcert [dis-kuh n-surt]

verb (used with object)

  1. to disturb the self-possession of; perturb; ruffle

    Her angry reply disconcerted me completely.

  2. to throw into disorder or confusion; disarrange

    He changed his mind and disconcerted everybody's plans


stupefy [stoo-puh-fahy, styoo-]

verb (used with object), stupefied, stupefying.

  1. to put into a state of little or no sensibility; benumb the faculties of; put into a stupor.

  2. to stun, as with a narcotic, a shock, or a strong emotion.

  3. to overwhelm with amazement; astound; astonish.


boggle [bog-uh l]

verb (used with object), boggled, boggling.

  1. to overwhelm or bewilder, as with the magnitude, complexity, or abnormality of

    The speed of light boggles the mind.

  2. to bungle; botch.

verb (used without object), boggled, boggling.

  1. to hesitate or waver because of scruples, fear, etc.

  2. to start or jump with fear, alarm, or surprise; shrink; shy.

  3. to bungle awkwardly.

  4. to be overwhelmed or bewildered.


I personally thought these were "filled with color"

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You may be befuzzled.

Confused, baffled, bemused, perplexed.
"I don't know, you've got me all befuzzled!"
Urban Dictionary

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  • 1
    I think the original word would be befuddled. For anyone who wants a the reference. – Neptunian Nov 11 '15 at 10:35

Here's the list of synonyms that Google suggests for dumbfounded :

  • astonished, astounded, amazed, staggered, surprised, startled, stunned, confounded, nonplussed, stupefied, dazed, dumbstruck, open-mouthed, agape, speechless, at a loss for words, thunderstruck, goggle-eyed, wide-eyed;
  • taken aback, thrown, shaken (up), unnerved, disconcerted, discomposed, bewildered;
  • (informal:) flabbergasted, floored, flummoxed, knocked for six, knocked sideways, knocked out, bowled over, blown away, unable to believe one's eyes/ears;
  • (informal:) gobsmacked

And some verbs:

  • take someone's breath away, take by surprise, stop someone in their tracks, strike dumb, leave open-mouthed, leave aghast, catch off balance;
  • (informal:) knock the stuffing out of, blow someone's mind

Doubtlessly I've repeated some of others' words, but I'm too lazy to check one by one. Sorry about that!

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One possibility no-one appears to have mentioned: stunned as a mullet, or like a stunned mullet, though I think this is Australian vernacular. From the Macquarie dictionary (3ed), under stunned:

phrase 2. like a stunned mullet, Colloquial a. in complete bewilderment or astonishment. b. in a state of inertia: *Now you sit there like a stunned mullet. - ʙᴀʀʀʏ ᴅɪᴄᴋᴇɴꜱ, 1985.

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  • What does mullet mean in that context? Surely, not the haircut, – wallyk Nov 17 '15 at 0:32
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    It's a fish. They look pretty stunned when you catch them and knock them on the head (I was going to use bonk rather than knock but I don't want to cause even more confusion given certain definitions of rhe word "bonk"). – user45532 Nov 17 '15 at 2:07
  • Interestingly enough, Macquarie (3ed, so it may be outdated) doesn't list that hairstyle as one of the definitions of mullet. – user45532 Nov 18 '15 at 2:30

Nonplussed: surprised and confused. Particularly nice, since a lot of the folks who use this word are a bit nonplussed by the actual definition.

Goggling: staring with amazement and wonder.

I've heard "Agog" used in a similar context, but it's not proper usage.

Additionally both Gobsmacked and Befuddled might work.

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  • Gobsmacked looks promising for my context. I will put it into my draft and then let it ferment a bit before I decide. – aparente001 Nov 14 '15 at 16:25
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    Nonplussed means "less than enthused by" (or as the word itself implies, nothing added by) the subject in question. A synonym phrase for nonplussed might be "not impressed". It has nothing to do with the states of confusion or clarity. – O.M.Y. Nov 16 '15 at 0:44
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    @O.M.Y. You should check your definition of "nonplussed" again. That's at best an informal definition due to erroneous usage by people who don't actually know what nonplussed means. That's why I referenced the actual, as opposed to supposed, definition in my answer. Also, check up on agog as well. People tend to associate it with goggling since they're phonetically similar, but agog is appropriately used to describe an anticipatory or expectant state. – Misneac Nov 16 '15 at 0:58
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    Thanks for proving out my assessment of nonplussed though ;) – Misneac Nov 16 '15 at 1:09
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    @Misneac: I stand corrected! I just looked at the Oxford Dictionary definition for "nonplussed" and it confirms your definition (which I had never heard) but at the same time it points out that my definition has also become common usage in North America with the synonymous meaning of "unperturbed". – O.M.Y. Nov 16 '15 at 1:22

Bedevilled: Be confusing or perplexing to; cause to be unable to think clearly

Example: These questions bedevil even the experts

I think this perfectly suits your context. ;)

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It's not too multi-syllabicated but how about: 'Stumped' or 'Flummoxed' ? (as per The Collins dictionary)

  • stumped
    at a loss, at one's wits' end, at sea, baffled, brought to a standstill, floored (informal) flummoxed, in despair, nonplussed, perplexed, stymied, uncertain which way to turn.
  • flummoxed
    at a loss, at sea, baffled, bewildered, foxed, mystified, nonplussed, stumped, stymied.
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noun - an irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction in a text, argument, or theory.

Hard to use in place of dumbfounded though, and it might baffle some readers.

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  • Was requesting an adjective. – aparente001 Jul 18 '16 at 23:48

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